Laurence D. Packer

PhD (Toronto) ldp
Professor of Biology
Research Areas:  Behaviour, ecology, evolutionary biology and systematics of bees with special emphasis on the evolution of social behaviour, bee biogeogaphy and biodiversity; biodiversity of oak savannah habitats; insect systematics.

Research Focus:

Research in my laboratory focuses on the biology of wild bees. What aspect of wild bee biology we study has changed over time (having encompassed, among other areas, sociobiology, conservation genetics, comparative morphology, phylogenetics, systematics, taxonomy, DNA barcoding, biogeography). I have typically been flexible enough to permit students to decide on their own area of research even when this has been outside of my own work (e.g. macroecology, beetle taxonomy, physiology, restoration ecology, biodiversity, urban bees, bee decline). This has sometimes resulted in my being stretched outside my intellectual comfort zone in multiple directions simultaneously; the resulting pain has necessitated a retrenchment to core interests.
Our current research concentrates upon phylogenetics, systematics, taxonomy and biogeography. Our approach to all of these topics is truly global in scope: current students are working on South American Colletes, the Meso- and South American subgenus Hylaeosoma, North American Epeolus and Osmiini, chemical ecology of cleptoparasitic bees and their hosts and the biogeography of the bees of northern Chile. My own work concentrates on curating the DNA barcode database for bees of the world and taxonomic revisions of the Xeromelissinae.
Future planned projects include more biogeographic work aimed at understanding the diversification of various South American bee lineages in the light of geological and palaeoenvironmental history and coevolutionary studies between bees and plants of the genus Nolana.
In our phylogenetic work, we combine morphology and molecular research, although practical aspects of the latter are certainly not personal strengths. We are also investigating the potential of morphometric data in reconstructing bee phylogenies. The global approach we take to bee systematics and taxonomy is facilitated by the large collection we have built up over the past 25 years – currently including over 90% of the worlds bee genera with specimens from well over 100 countries. Our work is greatly facilitated by our digital imaging system - see various “bees of the month” images on the website and the image galleries (

Most students working in my laboratory should expect to spend quite a lot of time in the field: the only way to obtain a really deep understanding of the biology of one’s taxonomic group. I have a distinctly “hands-off” supervisory style and students only add my name to their publications when I contribute to the work effort or writing: just providing ideas, research funding and/or editorial advice is insufficient for co-authorship



Representative Publications:

(for my complete cv go to: Note that the list below is chosen to demonstrate research diversity rather than merely listing the highest impact journal articles.

Kerr, J.T., A. Pindar, P. Galpern, L. Packer, S.G. Potts, S.M. Roberts, P. Rasmont, O. Schweiger, S.R. Colla, L.L. Richardson, D.L. Wagner, L.F. Gall, D.S. Sikes and A. Pantoja. 2015. Climate change impacts on bumblebees converge across continents. Science. 349: 177-180.

Miklasevskaja, M. and L. Packer. 2015. Fluctuating asymmetry in an extreme morphological adaptation in the Chilean bee Xeromelissa rozeni (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). Canadian Journal of Zoology. 93:833-840.

MacIvor, J.S. & L. Packer. 2015. “Bee hotels” as tools for native pollinator conservation: a premature verdict? PLOS-ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122126

Praz, C. and L. Packer. 2014. Phylogenetic position of the bee genera Ancyla and Tarsalia (Hymenoptera:Apidae): A remarkable base compositional bias and an early Paleogene geodispersal from North America to the Old World. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 81:258-270.

Packer, L. 2014. Patagonicola: a new genus of xeromelissine bee from Argentina (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). Canadian Entomologist, 146: 248-270.

Albert, J.R. and L. Packer. 2013. Nesting biology and phenology of a population of Halictus farinosus Smith (Hymenoptera, Halictidae) in northern Utah. Journal of Hymenoptera Research, 32: 55-73.

MacIvor, J.S., Moore, A.E. 2013. Bees collect polyurethane and polyethylene plastics as novel nest materials. Ecosphere, 4(art155).

Dumesh, S. 2013. Revision of the rare Mesoamerican bee genus Mexalictus (Hymenoptera: Halictidae) with the description of 21 new species. Zootaxa, 3708: 3-79.

Ngo, H.T., J. Gibbs, T. Griswold, and L. Packer. 2013. Evaluating bee (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) diversity using malaise traps in coffee landscapes of Costa Rica. The Canadian Entomologist, 145: 436-453.

Smith, M.A., J. Gibbs, L. Packer, C. Sheffield and 25 others. 2012. Wolbachia and DNA barcoding insects: patterns, potential, and problems. PLoS ONE, 7(5): e36514.